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Here's How Harvey Is Impacting Military, Veteran Benefits

Texas National Guardsmen aid citizens in heavily flooded areas of Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Lt. Zachary West/Army
Texas National Guardsmen aid citizens in heavily flooded areas of Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Lt. Zachary West/Army

With America's fourth-largest city under water, up to 13 million people impacted across Texas and Louisiana and at least 15 deaths, Hurricane Harvey is wreaking havoc across the southern U.S.

While the Texas National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard have joined local, state and federal agencies in responding to what could be the worst natural disaster to ever strike Texas, the Veterans Affairs Department has also issued notices for a handful of benefits.

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If you're a military family member, retiree or veteran in the impacted areas, several military and VA benefits have been temporarily changed in response to the ongoing crisis.

Here's a rundown:

Tricare

During natural disasters, Tricare regularly puts in place a "state of emergency" in impacted areas.

Tricare users in all counties in Louisiana and some counties in Texas can access emergency prescriptions refills at any Tricare network pharmacy.

Those counties are: Aransas, Atascosa, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Colorado, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kerr, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Polk, Refugio, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Waller, Walker, Washington, Wharton, Wilson and Willacy.

Specialty care referral requirements have also been waived for all Tricare users in some counties in Texas.

To be seen by a medical provider, beneficiaries simply need to make an appointment with a provider wherever they are. Those Texas counties are: Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Brazos, Burleson, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Brazoria, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Polk, Refugio, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Waller, Walker, Washington, Wharton and Wilson.

The situation is constantly changing so check the Tricare website for up-to-date details.

GI Bill

Typically, Post-9/11 GI Bill housing allowance payments require that you are in school continuously. When school breaks or classes are out, the housing payment is prorated to reflect that change.

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that most people using the GI Bill at a school that has been temporarily closed due to the hurricane will still receive housing allowance payments as if nothing had happened.

Read more about this update here.

VA Hospitals, Clinics

Across impacted areas in Texas, some community health and outpatient Department of Veterans Affairs clinics are closed as a result of the storm. The Houston VA Medical Center, however, is open and fully operational, officials posted on that facility's website.

A series of mobile vet centers to provide counseling services were being deployed to impacted areas, such as Corpus Christi, or have been placed on standby, according to VA officials. Within the area impacted by Harvey are over 510,000 veterans and 115 VA clinics, they said.

A series of mobile vet centers to provide counseling services were being deployed to impacted areas, such as Corpus Christi, or have been placed on standby, according to VA officials. Within the area impacted by Harvey are over 510,000 veterans and 115 VA clinics, they said.

The VA has also put in place their Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan. Eligible veterans with a VA ID Card who need an emergency supply of medications can go to any CVS or HEB pharmacy with a written prescription or active VA prescription bottle to receive a 14-day supply. Veterans who need assistance can also call the Heritage Health Solutions Veterans Help line at 1-866 265-0124 to speak to a representative, officials said.

This story was updated August 30, 2017

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @amybushatz.

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